Monday, August 31, 2009

Seafood Risotto

I have expressed my love for both risotto and Cook's Illustrated in previous posts, so imagine my excitement when I came across a recipe for risotto from Cook's Illustrated! And it has shrimp! And scallops! And wine! And I can use tomatoes and basil from my garden! The excitement was exhausting.

This was a fairly quick weeknight dinner, and since risotto is basically a one-pot meal, clean up is a breeze as well. In fact, the shrimp and scallops are essentially poached in the risotto; seriously, it doesn't get any easier.

This had a great seafood flavor without being overly fishy. The saffron gave it a nice depth of flavor, and the clam juice reinforced the seafood taste without being overpowering. I used bay scallops instead of cutting up sea scallops. I also used a shallot instead of onion... because it just seemed like the right thing to do. The only other change I would make would be to add a squirt of lemon juice when serving. I felt like it would have benefited from the acid and brightness.

I served this with a nice dry rose' and a crusty baguette, and it was a great summer meal.

Seafood Risotto
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced (1/3 cup)
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup Arborio rice
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed, each cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 ounces bay scallops (about 1 cup scallops)
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • lemon wedges, for serving
Combine the chicken broth and clam juice in a medium heat proof bowl. Cover, and microwave until hot, 1 to 3 minutes.

Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots have softened, 1-3 minutes. Stir in the rice and saffron and cook until the ends of the rice are transparent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until it is completely absorbed, 1-2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the hot broth mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has absorbed, and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. This will take close to 10 minutes.

Adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed between each addition. Be careful not to let the bottom of the pan dry out. Continue to stir often, and repeat until the rice is al dente, about 10-15 minutes. You may not use all the broth. I just began tasting after about 10 minutes, and kept adding broth and stirring until it was done.

Vigorously stir in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter until it has melted. Gently fold in the shrimp, scallops, tomatoes, basil, and 1/3 cup of the broth mixture. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to low, and cook until the seafood is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir once halfway through cooking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bacon and Cheddar Scones

Yet another recipe from The Pastry Queen, these are perfect to make on the weekend, then grab and go throughout the week (which is exactly what Joey did). I made these scones last Sunday for breakfast, and we enjoyed them out on the patio with some fresh fruit and coffee.

I love savory scones; it doesn't feel like I'm having dessert for breakfast, so they must be healthy.... despite the bacon, butter, buttermilk, and cheddar cheese...

These are nice and light, but still filling without feeling too heavy. The base for the scone is slightly different than that of previous scones I'd made, but still very light and buttery.

Bacon and Cheddar Scones
adapted from The Pastry Queen
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick)chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 slices of bacon, diced and cooked; then drained of fat
  • 3/4- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 400. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed. Gradually add the butter cubes as the mixer is still running, until the mixture is crumbly and studded with butter-flour bits (about the size of small peas). Add the grated cheese and mix until just blended.

Add the bacon, green onions, and 3/4 cup of the butter milk. Mix by hand until all the ingredients are incorporated. If the dough will not hold together and is too dry, add buttermilk 1 Tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly with each addition. Do this until the dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball. Do not overwork the dough, or the scones will not be light and tender.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Pat into a ball, and roll into an 8-inch circle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges for more substantial scones, or 10 wedges for smaller scones.

Combine the egg and water in a small bowl.

Place scones on an ungreased baking sheet, and brush each scone with the egg wash. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BB: White Pizzas with Arugula

I was so very excited when I saw this month's second selection for Barefoot Bloggers. When I first purchased Back to Basics, this recipe caught my eye, but until this week I had yet to make it. Well it is safe to say that I will definitely be making this again. We had some friends over for dinner, and it was perfect for entertaining. I made the dough, the garlic oil, and shredded the cheese(mmmm mozzarella, goat cheese, and fontina) earlier in the day, so when it came time to make dinner, I just had to roll out the pizzas and throw them on the grill.

Which brings us to my next rave: pizza on the grill. This is really the only way I make pizza anymore. It makes the crust nice and crispy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The ideal way to make pizza is in a brick oven, but since most of us don't have access to one, in my opinion a grill is the next best thing. If you don't have access to a grill, just bake them at 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes, as Ina instructs.

One final point, I always use Cook's Illustrated's recipe for pizza dough, so I was a little nervous to try something different, but Ina's did not disappoint. I'll probably still stick with CI's in the future, but this one was delicious as well.

White Pizzas with Arugula
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (100-114 degrees)
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups grated Fontina cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella
  • 11 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces baby arugula
To make the dough, combine the water, honey, yeast, and 3 Tablespoons olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour and then 2 teaspoons of salt, and mix on medium low speed. Add up to 1 more cup of flour while it mixes, or just enough to make a soft dough that doesn't stick to the bowl. Knead 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it by hand 10-12 times. At this point it should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, brush the top with oil, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the garlic oil. pour 1/2 cup olive oil, the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.

Prepare grill.

Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place them on a sheet lined with parchment, and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle. Brush with the oil, and carefully place on the grill oil-side down. Brush the other side with oil. Repeat with remaining dough (I could fit 3 pizzas on the grill at a time). When the first side is browned and crispy, carefully flip. Working quickly, top with the cheese (I mixed mine all together in a big bowl to make this easier). Drizzle with a little more oil and top with pepper. Continue to cook until the second side is done, and the cheese has melted (about 5 minutes or so).

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. When the pizzas are done, place the arugula and spinach in a large bowl and toss with just enough vinaigrette to moisten. Slice the pizza into quarters and top with a large bunch of the greens. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and serve.

Salmon Pesto Pasta

I have recently discovered another blog that I absolutely love. Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles not only shares my love of Cook's Illustrated, but she is a science nerd as well! Plus, she takes beautiful photographs and bakes up some of the prettiest desserts ever.

So I was perusing her blog and came across this recipe. It has some of my favorite ingredients in it: pesto, pasta, and salmon. My basil plant has been overflowing, so I knew I needed to make some pesto soon; plus we love salmon in our house. She introduced me to a new way to make pesto: toast the garlic first. It really does take away the sharp bite of raw garlic, and leaves the pesto tasting.... more pesto-y.

I stayed true to her recipe; I just threw some baby heirloom tomatoess on top because I pretty much add tomatoes to everything in the summer.

Salmon Pesto Pasta
The Way the Cookie Crumbles
  • 8 oz pasta
  • 12 oz salmon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 5 oz evaportaed milk
  • 1/2 cup pesto (recipe follows)
  • grated Parmesan, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once water is boiling, add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt, and stir to dissolve. Add pasta and stir. Allow to cook to al dente, 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position. Heat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, and place salmon on the foil. Season with salt and pepper, and rub with lemon zest and olive oil. Broil until flesh is firm and salmon is no longer translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon juice. Flake fish into bite size pieces with a fork. Set aside.

When pasta is cooked, drain and discard water. Add the evaporated milk to the empty saucepan and cook until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Return pasta to the pan and stir to combine.

Remove the pot from heat, and add the salmon and pesto. Stir to combine. Serve with additional lemon wedges and Parmesan cheese. Top with tomatoes if desired.

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Pamesan cheese
"Bruise" the basil leaves in a food processor fitted with the dough blade (the one that's not as sharp) for a few pulses. Replace with the steel (sharp) blade.

Toast nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add to teh food processor. Add the garlic cloves to the skillet and toast, tossing frequently, until the skins are toasted and garlic is fragrant. Peel and add to food processor as well.

Process until finely chopped, and add remaining ingredients except cheese. Transfer to a small bowl, add the cheese, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pimiento Cheese with Bacon

Having grown up in the south, I am no stranger to pimiento cheese. No gathering was complete without little pimiento cheese sandwiches cut into circles with a biscuit cutter. I guess I always took them for granted, because I was thinking not too long ago how much I loved it, and how much I miss having them. I came across this recipe in Southern Living a few months ago, and I had been thinking about it ever since. Pimiento cheese = delicious. With bacon? yes please!

I am actually ashamed to admit that before making this, I had no idea how to even make pimiento cheese. Well, it really can't get any easier than this, y'all. Just shred some cheese, fry up the bacon, and mix in a few other ingredients. I've replaced the cayenne pepper for chili powder. For one thing, I'm a spice wuss, but I also like how the smokiness of the bacon and chili powder complement each other.

I have made this twice, and have served it with toasted pita both times. I've also eaten the leftovers as sandwiches... or straight out of the container with ritz crackers.... one of these days I will make the pimiento cheese burgers that were in the same article.

And lastly, I apologize for the terrible picture... I was trying to quickly snap some pics before the food table was attacked at the shower ;-)

Bacon Pimiento Cheese
adapted from Southern Living, July 2009

  • 4 strips of bacon, diced
  • 16 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 4-oz jar diced pimientos, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons grated onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Grate cheese and allow to stand at room temperature 15-20 minutes (this allows the cheese to soften, making it easier to mix in with the other ingedients. Then the flavors will meld together better. This is a good thing).

Stack bacon strips on top of each other, and dice (this is made easier if you freeze the bacon for about 15 minutes before you need it). Sautee in a nonstick skillet until done. Allow to drain on a paper towel. Reserve the fat for another use.

Stir together all the ingredients. Check seasonings, and adjust if necessary. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

S'mores Cupcakes

Chocolate and marshmallow rank right up there as one of my favorite flavor combinations. So it should come as no surprise that combined with my love of cupcakes, this would be right up my alley.

I initially got the recipe from Martha Stewart in her new Cupcakes book, but upon further inspection I wasn't too impressed. I had envisioned a chocolate cupcake with rich ganache and toasted marshmallow frosting, but she did something funny with the cupcake base. She used that as the graham flavor by using graham flour and brown sugar, and I just didn't want to do that at all. Luckily, I had recently seen a similiar cupcake on Proceed with Caution (originally from Domestic Pursuits), and my problems were solved. Graham cracker crust, chocolate cupcake, chocolate ganache, marshmallow frosting. Perfect!

These were pretty painless to make, though they did require several steps. The good news is that you could easily split it up over 2 days, though I did do it all in one afternoon. I took these to a neighborhood party, and we all agreed that they were fun, festive, and delicious!

The only hurdle I encountered was the torch step, which is optional anyway. I bought a creme brulee torch, but failed to buy the butane for it; so I just used one of those long-necked lighters that we use for candles, and it worked beautifully. I let Joey torch some of them, and he had a great time - of course he did, give a man fire to play with and he's entertained for hours, right? ;-)

S'mores Cupcakes

adapted from Martha Stewart, Cupcakes, with inspiration from Proceed with Caution

makes 24 cupcakes

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 10 graham crackers, crushed in a food processor into crumbs
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with liners, and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Add 1 Tablespoon of the crumb mixture to each muffin tin, and use a small glass or bottle to press into the bottom. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven.

Chocolate Cake

adapted from Hershey's
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot, strong-brewed, coffee
Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Stir to combine. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Turn off mixture, and pour in the hot coffee. Stir to combine.

Fill each muffin tin 2/3 full of batter. Bake 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Martha Stewart, Cupcakes
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
Place chocloate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a small saucepan; pour over chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until chocolate starts to melt, 1-3 minutes.

Gently stir the choclate and cream until completely combined. This can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Just reheat gently before using.

Marshmallow Frosting

Martha Stewart, Cupcakes

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (1 scant tablespoon)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup of cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup water and the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; using a candy thermometer to monitor, boil syrup until it reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees F). Use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan to keep sugar crystals from forming.

Remove from heat. Add syrup to the softened gelatin. Whisk mixture by hand to cool, 1-2 minutes, then use an electric mixture to whisk on medium-high speed until soft, glossy (but not dry) peaks form, 8-10 minutes. Use immediately (frosting will harden)

To assemble

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the ganache onto each cupcake. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Use a small kitchen torch or long-necked lighter to toast the frosting. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fontina and Herb Stuffed Chicken

I bought chicken breasts at the grocery store this week, as usual, but wasn't sure what to do with them. Initially I planned to marinate and grill them as usual, but the weather was rainy and I wanted comfort food. So I just kind of threw this together, and they turned out much better than I expected. I really love those kinds of meals, don't you?

This is basically a deconstructed pesto stuffed chicken breast. I just replaced the Parmesan with some melty, gooey, fontina, and added in some spinach and parsley in addition to the basil. I used the leftover herbs and pine nuts to throw together a quick pesto oil for the sauce, but I don't think it was necessary. It certainly didn't hurt though ;-)

Fontina and Herb Stuffed Chicken
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness
  • 4-oz fontina cheese sliced
  • 3 Tablespons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley, but could have used pretty much anything)
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly toast pine nuts and bread crumbs. Pound chicken breasts to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic. Lay out 2-3 slices of cheese per breast, top with herbs and pinenuts, and roll tightly. Coat with egg and then breadcrumbs, and lay seam-side down on a well-oiled baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining chicken breasts

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the meat reaches 170. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes, then slice against the rolls and serve.

If making sauce, use leftover herbs and pine nuts, and combine in a food processor with 1 clove of garlic, salt, pepper, and additional olive oil to reach desired consistency.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shrimp Quesadillas

I bought a new cookbook last week, The Pastry Queen, and seriously every recipe looks absolutely delectable. The focus of the book is obviously dessert and (duh) pastry, but she does include a chapter of savory recipes. This recipe didn't stand out for me initially, but since I really wanted to make something from the cookbook, I put it on the menu for the week.

Well let me tell you, it is fabulous! Easy to throw together, spicy, cheesy, with a little sweetness from the mango salsa, this is now one of my go-to dinners since we keep frozen shrimp on hand. I didn't have any issues, other than the fact that I wasn't sure what "thai-style chili sauce" is. I just used Siracha, but I drastically decreased the amount since it is very spicy (for my wimpy palate anyway). The shrimp were smoky and delicious, and would make a wonderful appetizer or main dish all on their own.

I made several other changes to the recipe. Basically I replaced the cayenne for chili powder, chopped the shrimp before adding to the quesadillas, added tequila to the onion mixture, and only used 1 tortilla instead of 2. I also threw together some guacamole to serve alongside the quesadillas. My version is posted below.

Shrimp Quesadillas with Mango Salsa
adapted from The Pastry Queen, page 172

Mango Salsa
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Siracha
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days until ready to serve.

  • 1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • Dash of Worchestershire sauce
  • Dash of tabasco sauce
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Rub the shrimp with the chili powder and salt. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute the shrimp in 1 Tablespoon of the oil for 1-3 minutes, until the curl up and turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan, remove tails, and coarsley chop into pieces.

Add the second Tablespoon of olive oil, and add the onion, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, and saute about 5 minutes. Pour tequila into pan and add the bell pepper. Continue to cook about 5 minutes longer, until the onions are brown and caramelized, and the tequila has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Spray tortillas lightly with non-stick cooking spray, and on the un-sprayed side, over half the tortilla layer cheese, onion mixture, shrimp, and top with additional cheese. Fold the tortilla and carefully place in saute pan. Repeat, cooking 2 tortillas at a time.

Carefully flip when the first side is browned and the cheese has melted. Cook the other side. Remove from heat and cut the quesadillas into quarters and transfer to serving plates. Serve immediately with mango salsa.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream

So by many many recommendations, I finally bought The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. And man, I wish I had bought it sooner. I was literally drooling just reading through it. Soo many of the ice creams that I want to try! This one really stood out to me for some reason, so I decided to make oatmeal raisin for my maiden voyage.

If you like the cookie, you will love the ice cream. Raisins soaked in syrup and then splashed with a bit of whiskey, crunchy oatmeal praline, and brown sugar. Seriously good stuff. The recipe is a bit involved as far as ice creams go, but nothing too difficult or time consuming. Just be careful when spreading the praline out to dry that you don't try and use your hand - not smart and now I have a second degree burn on my thumb and forefinger. Don't be like me. There's not much more I can say other than try this soon! And be on the lookout; I'm also going to post another recipe of a great idea to use up ice cream (if you don't just eat it all in one sitting)!

Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream
from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

For the Oatmeal Praline
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of coarse salt
Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spread the oats evenly on the sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking, until the oats are fragrant and nicely toasted.

Spread the sugar in a medium, heavy bottomed skillet and cook over medium heat, watching it carefully. When it begins to liquefy and darken at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to stir it very gently, encouraging the heat of the liquefied sugar around the edges to moisten and melt the sugar in the center.

Tilt the pan and stir gently until all the sugar is melted and the caramel begins to smoke. Once the mixture is deep golden, remove it from the heat and immediately add the oats to the skillet (lift the foil to guide them in quickly). Return the foil to the baking sheet.

Stir the oats gently but quickly, coating them with the caramel. Scrape the oats onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool completely. Once firm, break the pralined oats into small pieces by pulsing them in a food processor or placing the pieces in a plastic bag and smacking them with a mallet or rolling pin.

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey
Heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Add the raisins and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until all but about 2 Tablespoons of the syrup has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the whiskey.

Ice Cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Warm the milk, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk the cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon together into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer and mix in the the vanilla. Stir to combine, and stir over an ice bath until cool.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the raisins and oatmeal praline.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fontina Stuffed Meatball Kabobs

This meal was a long time coming, but I'm glad I finally got around to making it. I have had it starred for several months now, and last week I finally bought everything I needed to make it. I planned to make it Wednesday, and then Thursday, and it just didn't work out. Well I'm glad I eventually got around to it. The meatballs were moist, cheesy, and flavorful, and the mushrooms and tomatoes were charred and delicious as well. I also really liked the balsamic glaze.

Just a few notes...The recipe supposedly makes 16 meatballs, but I only got 12. Also, be careful when skewering them to thread the skewer through the cheese... it helps keep the meat on the skewer. Some of the meatballs fell apart a bit when I turned them on the grill, so you have to be pretty delicate when flipping them.

Fontina Stuffed Meatball Kabobs
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, May 2009
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced proscuitto, chopped
  • 16 1/2-inch fontina cubes (1.5 oz)
  • 1 package baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • fresh basil, chopped
Combine egg, Parmesan, garlic, Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Add beef and proscuitto; mix gently with a fork.

Divide into 16 portions; shape around cheese cubes.

On skewers, thread meatballs, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I put 2 meatballs on each skewer.

On a prepared grill, place kabobs on a greased rack, and grill 10-12 minutes, or until meat is lo longer pink, turning and brushing with half the glaze halfway through.

To serve, drizzle with remaining glaze and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Balsamic Glaze
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 4 minutes, or until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Divide in half.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bridal Shower Menu

This past weekend I helped my mother-in-law host a shower by making most of the food. I was also in a wedding on Saturday, so I couldn't really do any prep work Friday or Saturday; therefore, I wanted to make things that could easily be made a few days ahead of time, or that required minimal effort. I would like to apologize in advance for the horrid pictures.. I just quickly snapped a few before everyone arrived. Look for updates in the next week or so with individual recipes.

The shower was on a Sunday afternoon, so we kept it simple with finger foods and cupcakes.

Butterfly and Flower Cupcakes

Apples with Toffee-brown sugar dip
Pimento Cheese with Bacon. served with Toasted Pita Wedges

Also on the menu:
Baked Brie in Puff Pastry with Raspberry Preserves
Mixed Green salad with toasted pecans, strawberries, and feta; with a raspberry vinaigrette
Veggie Tray with Dill Dip
Fruit Salad
Chicken Salad on Croissants
Mini Quiches

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Mango-Banana Daiquiris

I was super excited when I saw this month's first Barefoot Bloggers recipe. I absolutely love mango! And while I'm generally not a huge huge fan of frozen drinks (I mean, I'll drink them of course, but they aren't my favorite), mango daiquiris take me back to our honeymoon to St. Lucia.

We stayed at the best resort, Ti Kaye Village, and I had one (or 2) mango daiquiris every day. Seriously they were the best frozen drinks ever. Fresh mango puree, rum, and ice. That's it. And they were sooo good. I can't say that these rivaled the drinks I had at Ti Kaye, but they were pretty darn good. I loved the addition of banana, and I used coconut rum to add another flavor into the mix.

I had initially planned on making these on Sunday for us to take to the pool with us, but never got around to buying rum on Saturday, and of course Georgia has the ridiculous no-alcohol-sales-on-Sunday law. So we enjoyed them on Wednesday night instead. Not a bad way to celebrate the halfway point of the week. :-)

Thanks again to Veronica of Supemarket Serenade for picking a great recipe, and for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.

Mango Banana Daiquiris
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

  • 2 cups chopped ripe mango (1-2 mangos, peeled and seeded)
  • 1 ripe banana, chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (1 cup water + 1 cup sugar, heated until sugar is dissolved)
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut rum, such as Malibu
Place the mango, banana, lime juice, simple syrup, and rum in a blender, and process until smooth.

Add 2 cups of ice and process again until smooth and thick. Serve ice cold in glasses. Garnish with mango slices and lime wedges.

And here is a picture of me enjoying some mango daiquiris at lunch on our honeymoon :-)

Garlicky Oven Fries

When my sister-in-law Lisa orders french fries, she has a screening process for them. She makes 2 piles - the edibles and the rejects. I'm still not quite sure what makes them rejects (I've never met a fry I didn't like), but she lets us eat her rejects, so I'm not complaining.

If I were to choose my favorite fries, they would definitely be the crispy, crunchy ones. So it was my lucky day when I came across this recipe that produces ALL crispy and crunchy fries - that are laced with garlic no less!

Yet again, I'm singing praises for America's Test Kitchen. They get it right every.single.time. I was a little reluctant to steam the potato wedges in the microwave, but hey - ATK says to do it, I will do it. I also thought it was kind of weird to cook the fries on the lowest oven rack - but once again, I did it. And it produced the crispiest, crunchiest, crustiest fries!

Just a few more notes - I don't have a garlic press (I could have sworn I had one, but it was no where to be found...), so I used my mini prep food processor to mince the garlic. Also, the recipe says to be sure to cut the potatoes into similar sized wedges to ensure even cooking. I cut each potato in half length-wise, then cut each half into 4 wedges. Since my potatoes were all about the same size to begin with, this produced wedges that were roughly the same size.

I guess that's it - enjoy!

Garlicky Oven Fries
The Best of America's Test Kitchen
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • 3 russet potatoes (about 8 oz each), each cut into wedges
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475.

Combine the garlic and oil in a large bowl and microwave until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer 5 tablespoons of the oil (leaving the garlic in the bowl) to a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the sheet to coat.

Add the potatoes to the bowl with remaining oil mixture and toss to coat. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, 3-6 minutes, shaking the bowl every 2 minutes to redistribute the potatoes.

Combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake, turning them once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30-40 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tomato-Mozarella Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust

OK let's all just stand back for a moment and take in the awesomeness that is this tart: first and foremost, the crust. Oh, the crust. Made with basil and garlic. buttery, herby, garlicky, YUM. homegrown tomatoes. fresh mozarella. more homegrown basil. all topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Can you think of much more better than that? Even Joey was basically in complete awe of this, and he didn't even mention the lack of meat. He said it tasted sort of like a pizza - only better. Another recipe to add to my favorites.

I served this with a spinach salad, but it would make a great side dish to grilled chicken or steak as well. It'd also be a great main dish for lunch or brunch.

This was my first foray into tart making. I love the moment when you pull off the shell to reveal the beautifully golden crust. I only wish my crust had been more uniform around the edges. It did shrink a little while cooking, so I'll have to keep that in mind when pressing in my dough next time.

Fresh Tomato Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, orginially from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook
  • 1 recipe Basil-Garlic Tart Dough (recipe follows)
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mozzarella
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored and cut crosswise into thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh minced basil
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare the dough, and press it into a tart pan with removeable bottom.

Line the bottom of the tart pan with the sliced mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese. Top with salt, pepper, and parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with basil.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until dough is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and browned in spots. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. (The tart may be covered and kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours).

Basil-Garlic Crust
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 to 10 pieces
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water

Place the basil and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely chopped. Add flour and salt; pulse to combine.

Add butter. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if the mixture forms a ball. If not, add remaining water. Process until dough forms into a ball. Remove dough from processor.

Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be placed in a zipper-lock plastic bag and refrigerated for several days or frozen for 1 month. If frozen, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.)

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan, and press it into the pan. Trim the dough, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Another week, another WC Ingredient Challenge. This week's secret ingredient is tomatoes, so I had no shortage of ideas. I made these as a side dish to go with the Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin, and they were just as good as the pork. I love it when the side dishes shine and aren't just filler. As much as I love goat cheese, I was honestly a little worried that stuffing a big tomato with it would just be too overpowering; but it was perfect, and mild, and delicious!

One final note, the original recipe makes 12 servings, but I estimated the ingredients down to 2 tomatoes. I am reporting the amounts needed for 4.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese
adapted from Food and Wine, August 2009
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2/3 pound fresh goat cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepp
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons bread crumbs
Preaheat the oven to 425. Slice off 1/2-inch of each tomato and discard. Scoop out tomato cores and seeds. Cut a very thin sliver off of the bottom of each tomato to help them stand up straight. Arrange them in a baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the goat cheese with the egg, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and 1/2 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Spoon the mixture into the tomatoes. Sprinkle tops with breadcrumbs, and drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Bake tomatoes for 35 minutes, until tender and browned in spots, and the cheese is hot.

Let stand for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with additional herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Margarita Cupcakes

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I just love making cupcakes. They are so much fun, and who doesn't love their own personal dessert? I love trying out new varieties, so I always sign up for dessert at potlucks.

My women's Bible Study group got together with our husbands for a cookout. And what kind of cupcake is better than a margarita cupcake to take to a church function, right?

These cupcakes are actually from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I did not make them vegan. I used whole milk instead of soy, and butter instead of shortening in the frosting. This was fine until we went to see a movie before the party and were faced with leaving them in a 100 degree car. So I just put them in a cooler to keep the icing from running. It still melted a bit from the heat of my hand while piping, but not too badly. Just something to be aware of if you make these.

The cupcakes have a very subtle lime and tequila flavor; not to tart or sweet. It really does taste like a margarita!

Margarita Cupcakes
adapted from
makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup margarita mix
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 teaspoons tequila
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Fill 2 12-cup muffin tins with liners, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together lime juice, margarita mix, lime zest, soy milk, oil , tequila, vanilla and sugar.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to lime mixture and stir until just combined. Divide evenly into muffin tins.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.
Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Tequila Lime Frosting
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 Tablespoons margarita mix
  • 3 Tablespoons tequila
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • sugar, for "rims"
Cream the butter, milk, lime juice, margarita mix, and tequila in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl every so often. Beat an additional 3-4 minutes.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #12 round tip. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes, and dip edges into green sugar to resemble salt on the rims of glasses.

Note: I think it would also be cute to tint the frosting green and use coarse sugar for rims.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

aka the best enchiladas ever! Thank you so much to Laura, at Tide and Thyme, for introducing me to this recipe. Seriously - they were so so good I can't even tell you. So good in fact, that the leftovers are really calling my name, and I'm trying so hard to resist....

OK so on to the recipe. I followed her recipe pretty closely, with the exception of a few minor changes. I added diced fresh jalapenos with the onion at the beginning; consequently, I omitted the pickled jalapenos from the filling. I also added a big tomato (diced) in with the tomato sauce and water to cook down. Finally, I did a mixture of white cheddar and Monterrey jack instead of all cheddar (simply because I had some to use up). I was a little worried about the spiciness when I tasted the sauce by itself, but when mixed with the fillng and cheese it really mellows out.

Seriously, make these ASAP!
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Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce
adapted from Tide and Thyme, orginally from America's Test Kitchen
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 medim cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
  • 1 cup extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
  • cooking spray
  • salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil in a large saucepan. cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.

Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through (thickest part reaches 160 degrees), about 12-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool.

Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onin mixture, and add 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup cheese, and the cilantro. Toss to combine.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish.

Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7 minutes, or until the tortillas start to brown slightly (skip this step if you don't like the crunch).

Reduce heat to 400. Remove enchiladas and pour sauce evenly on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, etc.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Make Life Sweeter: Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

August 1-7 is National Breastfeeding Week. This is very near and dear to my heart, as I have a 13 month old daughter whom I breastfed for just over a year. I won't lie, the first few weeks were incredibly difficult and painful, but once we made it over the hump, I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world. I truly believe that breastfeeding your child is one of the best things you can do for them, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to keep it up for as long as I did. In fact, I have been very emotional over the past few weeks about it; I guess I wasn't quite ready to give it up.

In any case, in honor of this week, I am participating in the Got Milk? event hosted by Linda of Make Life Sweeter. The rules are simple: make a sweet recipe that has milk as an ingredient. The hardest part for me was deciding what to make! When I made the swiss meringue buttercream over the weekend and had leftover egg yolks, I knew I would make ice cream. And then when I picked up a big bag of cherries at the grocery store, I quickly decided on Cherry Garcia ice cream. It is even more fitting since she absolutely loves ice cream and cherries (Not that she will get to eat any; she is allergic to eggs).

I didn't follow any particular recipe; I just made a basic vanilla ice cream and mixed in pitted and quartered cherries and shaved chocolate. The result was deliciously sweet! I have actually only had Ben and Jerry's once or twice, so I can't say how it compares, but this was definitely a winner!

Cherry Garcia Ice Cream
method from
Giada de laurentiis
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted and quartered cherries
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate
Heat milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring often.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with remaining sugar until they are pale yellow and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup milk mixture to the eggs and stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly, 10-20 minutes, or until mixture has thickened and it coats the back of a spoon. Add vanilla extract.

Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and chill completely. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to churn. When finished, fold in cherries and chocolate. Freeze until ready to serve.

Grilled Pork with Herbs and Red Wine Vinegar

I have already professed my love for grilled pork tenderloin... and the love affair continues after this meal. The meat was so flavorful and juicy. This would be a great meal to serve company; you can marinate the meat ahead of time and then just throw it on the grill when you're ready to eat. 20-30 minutes later, you have a perfectly grilled pork tenderloin!

This recipe was from Cook's Illustrated, another one of my favorites, but it was for pork cutlets. I just adapted the marinade to my liking and used it for a pork tenderloin instead, as we prefer that cut.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Herbs and Red Wine Vinegar
marinade adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Summer Grilling 2009

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and membrane removed
Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a large ziploc bag. Transfer the pork to the bag, massaging the marinade gently into the meat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, and up to several hours.

Prepare grill, and grill tenderloin until meat thermometer registers 140-45, turning once. Remove from grill and cover with a foil tent for 15 minutes. Slice and serve.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Berry Salad

Joey had a meeting on Tuesday night, so I was on my own for dinner. Whenever this happens I either eat leftovers or make something that I know he won't care for. I took the opportunity to make a nice light salad using berries, blue cheese, and pistachios. I grilled some chicken to slice over the salad, mixed up a quick vinaigrette, and called it a day.

My mother-in-law always says I make good salads, but they are usually all just different variations on the same salad. They always have all the same components... so now I will share my secret (which I'm sure most of you already do; I'm really not very inventive)

1. Dark, leafy greens (spinach, arugula, spring mix, romaine, etc)
2. Sweet - fruit - either fresh or dried (pears, berries, figs, apples...)
3. crunch - any sort of nut - pistachios, toasted almonds, pine nuts, pecans, walnuts
4. cheese - feta and blue cheese are my favorites
5 . crunchy veggie - cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, onion
6. viniagrette that reiterates one of the flavors - I usually do a fruit based or cheese

So there you have it, how to make a perfect salad, every time. I also like to add a legume to the salad as well - either chickpeas, black beans, northern beans, etc. Honestly I don't see how you can mess up a salad - be creative, have fun, and enjoy!

Summer Berry Spinach Salad
  • 2 cups baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
For the dressing (this makes more than you need for a single serving entree salad - enough for 2 big salads, or at least 4 small)
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
Process ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth

Assemble ingredients and drizzle with dressing. Top with grilled chicken, salmon, or pork if desired.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blueberry Shortcakes with Lemon Thyme Biscuits

In the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, there was an article full of recipes utilizing fresh summer berries. I found myself ripping out every single recipe! They all looked so delicious, but the WC Ingredient Challenge gave me a great opportunity to try one out. Every other week, a new ingredient is announced, and the challenge is to cook a dish that highlights it. This week's challenge was blueberries, and I knew I'd have no trouble coming up with something wonderful.

I absolutely LOVE using herbs in dessert. I guess it just goes back to my love affair with the sweet and savory combo. This recipe uses the classic combination of lemon and thyme to create a slightly sweet yet savory biscuit as the base for the shortcake. You then cook fresh blueberries with sugar, and top with freshly whipped cream.

This was absolutely divine! The bluberries were oozing and sweet, and the biscuit was fresh and savory. The only change I would make would be to add another half a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme, as I didn't feel like it was very pronounced. Or maybe the blueberry was just more overpowering. In any case, I plan on eating a biscuit toasted with butter for breakfast!

Blueberry Shortcakes with Lemon Thyme Biscuits
adapted from Bon Apetit, June 2009

  • 4 cups blueberries (2 pints) rinsed and drained
  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tablespoonswater
  • 3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest (I just did the zest of 1 medium lemon)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
For the berries, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until berries are softened and syrup coats the spoon, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a medium glass bowl, and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
For the biscuits, preheat oven to 425 and position rack to the center of the oven. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

Mix the buttermilk, lemon, and thyme in a small bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips or using a pastry cutter, until the dough is the consisentcy of coarse meal. Add the buttermilk mixture, and stir with a fork until just blended.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough comes together, 4 or 5 turns. The shortcakes will be tough if they are handled too much. Pat dough out to a 3/4 inch thick circle. Using either a round or square 3-4 inch cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut out dough. Gently gather leftover dough and repeat (I got 7 square biscuits). Transfer to the baking sheet, and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and cool slightly.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut biscuits horizontally in half. Spoon blueberries over bottom half, top with whipped cream, and cover with top half.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunflower Cupcakes

This past weekend marked a very special occasion. My brother (Paul) and older sister (Kalli) flew into Atlanta for the weekend from Arizona and Oregon (respectively). It was a very special visit for a few reasons. 1. They haven't been home in over 2 years and 2. they haven't met either Caroline or my niece, Georgia. So needless to say, I have been very excited about the visit. And I wasn't the only one. My stepmother threw a party in honor of the occasion on Sunday night. We had a great time eating ribs and chicken fingers, letting the girls play in the kiddie pool, and just enjoying the great company.

Linda asked me to make some cupcakes, and I decided on these sunflower cupcakes. They turned out even better than I expected, as I combined a few methods and adapted them to my liking. My biggest challenge was that I couldn't decide what to use as the center. One method used an oreo, while some used cocoa puff cereal, and Martha Stewart used chocolate covered sunflower seeds. I experimented a bit, I and finally decided to simply pipe chocolate icing in dots to make the center. The ladybug was a great finishing touch, and Georgia couldn't wait to eat a "ladybug cake."

Just as a quick note, the buttercream was insanely buttery when made according to the recipe, so I added about 1/2 to 1 cup of confectioner's sugar to sweeten it up. I have made this change in the recipe below. Oh and a special thanks to my mother-in-law for helping me pipe at midnight Saturday night!

These are a simple chocolate cupcake with Swiss meringue buttercream.

Sunflower Cupcakes

inspired by Martha Stewart and Hello Cupcake
cupcake adapted from Hershey's

Swiss Meringue frosting adapted from Martha Stewart

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot, strong brewed coffee
Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of stand mixer. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add to mixer, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in hot coffee, and pour into muffin tins, filling about 2/3 to the top.

Bake 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream
makes about 5 cups

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Taste, and add confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until desiered taste is reached. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

For the sunflowers
  • 12 chocolate cupcakes
  • 1 cup chocolate frosting (I used canned to save time)
  • 1/2 recipe Swiss meringue buttercream, tinted yellow
  • 12 red m&m's
Using a #5 round tip, pipe a small mound of chocolate onto the center of the cupcake. Pipe small dots over the mound. Don't worry if its not a perfect circle, the petals will cover the edge of the center.

Using a #18 star tip, pipe petals around the outside edge of the cupcake. Starting between 2 petals, pipe a second row around the cupcake. If necessary, pipe a few more petals to cover inperfections of the center.

For the ladybugs, use a #3 round tip to pipe chocolate frosting to resemble the shell. Carefully place the ladybugs on the flower.

I also tinted some buttercream green, and just piped it onto extra cupcakes. I didn't get any pictures of them, but they looked cute with the flowers.